Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Mentor, Edna St. Vincent Millay

I had to devote an entire post to the poet who gave me the gift of poetry, Edna St. Vincent Millay. If you've ever loved even one of her poems, then I recommend the amazing, moving biography, "Savage Beauty" by Nancy Milford. I read it once, then turned around and read it again. It broke my heart to learn of the harshness of Ms. Millay's later life and the pain she suffered. (But as it broke my heart, I also felt a kinship with her at the same time). Her free spirit enthralled me as did her wild life. It's most definitely NOT one of those dull and boring biographies, but reads more like a fascinating, riveting novel. I came away from it with a fresh admiration for both her and her amazing poetry. She lived her life as few women have before her or since.

I share below a few of my favorite poems which I first read almost 40 years ago. They're as fresh and inspiring to me today as they were then.

Blessings & Love,


You can find the enitre poem, Renascence, here:

RENASCENCE (First and Last Stanzas)

ALL I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked the other way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I’d started from;

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,—
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat—the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.


O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!

Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!

Thy mists that roll and rise!

Thy woods this autumn day, that ache and sag

And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag

To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!

World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,

But never knew I this;

Here such a passion is

As stretcheth me apart, -- Lord, I do fear

Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year;

My soul is all but out of me, -- let fall

No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

Edna St. Vincent Millay



To what purpose, April, do you return again?

Beauty is not enough.

You can no longer quiet me with the redness

Of little leaves opening stickily.

I know what I know.

The sun is hot on my neck as I observe

The spikes of the crocus.

The smell of the earth is good.

It is apparent that there is no death.

But what does that signify?

Not only under ground are the brains of men

Eaten by maggots.

Life in itself

Is nothing,

An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.

It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,


Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Edna St. Vincent Millay


Kelly said...

These are beautiful poems.

I took your advice and got a couple of poetry anthologies. Also took down an old copy of "Best Loved Poems of the American People" that was gathering dust on the shelf.

Yep, you've converted me, LOL!

Pam said...

Have the book, love the book and the poems!